North Queensland Toyota Cowboys winger Antonio Winterstein has lost his fitness race to take the field in tonight’s National Rugby League season opener against the Canberra Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Winterstein hurt his ankle a fortnight ago and was ruled out today after racing the clock to be fit for the match.
He is expected to be available for selection next week.
Cowboys pathways product Javid Bowen will take Winterstein’s place on the left wing after beating out fellow flyers Kalyn Ponga and Gideon Gela-Mosby for the spot.
Bowen, 22, will play his 11th NRL game after debuting in Round 5 last year.
In the forwards, veteran co-captain Matt Scott will take his place in the team tonight after overcoming a nasty leg infection that forced him into hospital on Tuesday night.
Scott and fellow warhorse Scott Bolton will start in the engine room against a monster Raiders forward pack including prop Shannon Boyd (194cm, 122kg) and back-row powerhouse Josh Papalii (183cm, 114kg).
Scott’s availability means 18th man Sam Hoare will line up for the Townsville Blackhawks in their season-opener against Norths Devils on Sunday.
The game will also mark ex-Storm utility Ben Hampton's Cowboys debut, the 25-year-old to come off the bench as backup to starting hooker Jake Granville for his 36th NRL appearance – he'll be Cowboy No.261.
COWBOYS NRL SQUAD: 1. Lachlan Coote 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 20. Javid Bowen 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston (c) 8. Matt Scott (c) 9. Jake Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. John Asiata 16. Coen Hess 17. Patrick Kaufusi.
NRL team selection changes – new in 2017:
1) Tuesday 4pm AEDT: Announce 17 active players & four reserves (21-man squad)
2) 24 hours before kick-off: Cut squad to 17 active players and two reserves (19-man squad)
3) 1 hour before kick-off: Final 17-man squad announced
If clubs wish to bring in a player from outside the 21-man or 19-man squad, they need to apply for an exemption that will be evaluated by the Head of Football on a case-by-case basis.
Players named as “Reserves” on Tuesday will still be able to be named in the starting sides of NYC and Mounties.
Any players included in the 19-man squad will be deemed ineligible for selection in the final 17 man squad if they play in a NSW/Qld Cup match prior to the NRL match.